Tomato flu — so called because of the painful red blisters it produces — has so far been identified in more than 100 children in three states since the first case was reported on May 6.
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The emergence of a rare, new viral infection affecting young children has prompted health authorities in India to issue a health advisory after more than 100 cases were discovered in the country.
Tomato flu – so called because of the painful red blisters it produces – has so far been detected in 82 children under the age of five in the state of Kerala, where the first case was detected on May 6.
A further 26 cases have since been reported in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu and Odisha in the east, where children as young as nine have been infected.
India’s health ministry has said the virus is not life-threatening, but this week issued testing and prevention guidelines to all states and urged parents to be extra vigilant in checking their children for symptoms. This was reported by Times of India.
Tomato flu is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads through close contact, especially among young children under the age of five.
Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, swollen joints, body aches and common flu-like symptoms, as well as the eponymous tomato-like blisters.
Scientists are still trying to identify the cause of the virus’s path. However, they say that “it is not related to SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19]”, although it exhibits some similar symptoms, according to an article published last week in British medical journal The Lancet.
More likely, the virus is the result of chikungunya or dengue fever, two mosquito-borne viral diseases.
Alternatively, it could be a new variant of the hand, foot and lameness virus, a common infectious disease that mainly targets children between the ages of one and five and immunocompromised adults.
Children are at increased risk of exposure to tomato flu because viral infections are common in this age group and spread is likely to occur through close contact.
They are also at particularly high risk from using nappies, touching unclean surfaces and also putting things directly into their mouths.
However, older adults could be at risk if the outbreak is not controlled and transmission is limited.
“Given the similarities to hand, foot and mouth disease, if outbreaks of tomato flu in children are not controlled and prevented, transmission could lead to serious consequences by spreading to adults,” the Lancet article said.
Tomato flu is a disease in itself, meaning it tends to resolve spontaneously without treatment.
However, health officials urged people to take precautions to prevent the outbreak from spreading, including isolating suspected cases for five to seven days after the onset of symptoms.
“The best solution for prevention is to maintain proper hygiene and disinfect the surrounding utensils and environment, as well as preventing the infected child from sharing toys, clothes, food or other objects with other uninfected children,” the Lancet article says. .